• Register

The Sureway Wollongong Roller Hawks have claimed a historic three-peat, winning the 2019 NWBL championship over the Queensland Spinning Bullets 71-62.

2019 Champions

Shawn Russell starred for the defending champions with 30 points and 11 rebounds as the Roller Hawks focussed on out-scoring their opponents inside the paint.


Wollongong got off to a tentative start with the Spinning Bullets shooting out to an 8-2 lead forcing  coach Brendan Dowler to call a timeout and emphasise the need for his troops to be aggressive.


His rev up took some time to take effect as the Spinning Bullets stretched the score to 12-3 much to the delight of the vocal home crowd.


“We have a lot of patient guys in our team so we knew we didn’t have to get it back in one or two possessions,” said Luke Pople.


Slowly the Roller Hawks worked their way back into the game, first with a two point shot by Nick Taylor, before Shawn Russell went to work underneath the basket to see the Roller Hawks only trail by 3 at quarter time.

“They were 8-2 up on us at the start and we couldn’t make a shot and fortunately we found some short passes and some good quality shots and that gave us some momentum through the rest of the three quarters,” said Russell after the game.


“This is exactly what happened last time, it might’ve even been the exact scoreline at the end of the first quarter so we knew we weren’t going to panic and that’s what saved us.”


While the Roller Hawks started slowly, by the second quarter it was the Spinning Bullets that looked to be second guessing themselves. Their renowned full court press that gave Wollongong their only loss of season wasn’t applied to begin the game and when they did apply it, it didn't last for long. 


“I was surprised they didn’t press early but then when it was working they changed it and they brought Kurt off who was shooting very well. They were beating us 8-2 at one stage and it was working and I don’t know why they changed i,.” added captain Brett Stibners.


Queensland’s decision to mix things up might have surprised the visitors but after they lost twice to the Roller Hawks during the regular season, they knew they had to make a change.


“Trying to press them early is tough because they’re so good and so switched on so we thought we’d bring it back a bit and see how we went. It started well and then we began to put a bit of pressure on.” said Bullets star Tom O’Neill-Thorne.


Neither side was able to skip away with the lead changing hands six times throughout the second quarter, a Luke Pople three tying the game at 37 all at half time.


“We just kept in the game, we weren’t playing well and we just stuck with it and stuck with it and I think in the end, experience got us over the line. Patience was a big key in that game” said Stibners.


Little separated the two sides throughout the third quarter and it was only midway through the final term that the Roller Hawks’ poise began to pay off. A Luke Dalton jump shot brought the Spinning Bullets within one point (57-56) with 6:43 remaining but an 8-2 run including 6 points from Russell gave the Roller Hawks some breathing room.

Shawn Russell

Russell was tireless underneath the basket shooting 11 from 19 from the field and 8 from 12 from the free throw line.


“Huss was awesome today, Nick Taylor shot the lights out and Brett Stibners hit a couple of clutch shots and it was just awesome to facilitate and let those guys do their thing,” said Pople.


Russell’s efforts was enough to earn the Finals MVP award.


“I’m not big on personal accolades in a team sport. We have guys in our team that do their job so well that makes my job so easy and vice versa so they (Queensland) have to give up something, they can’t let all of us shoot outside and let us score inside so on the day, whatever they give up I’m just happy to do whatever I can for the team,” said Russell.


“He was fantastic today and that’s why he won MVP and it was well deserved.” said Stibners. “He was great, he got his mismatches and cleaned up when we missed as well. He pushed his heart out today and did a really good job.” 


“Shawn Russell played exceptionally today, especially in the mid-court from free throw to free throw line he literally out-pushed us down the court and was able to get under and score underneath,” said O’Neill-Thorne.


Russell’s MVP capping off an impressive season for the Australian representative in the eyes of coach Brendan Dowler.


“He’s had a lot more on his shoulders this year after we lost Michael Auprince so Shawn’s had a much bigger role this year and he’s really stepped up,” said Dowler.


The win sees the Roller Hawks claim their third consecutive NWBL title and sixth since they entered the league in 2001. 


“It was a really tough game. We were expecting a really tough game and that’s exactly what we got,” said Russell.


“To win on enemy territory two years in a row was fantastic,” added Dowler.


The win was extra special for the side with all 12 squad members present for the win.


“We’re not just teammates, we’re mates, we all do it for each other and no one’s out there doing it for themselves. To do it for each other is awesome,” said Pople.  


While Russell finished as game MVP, captain Brett Stibners quitely amassed another triple double with 16 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists, Luke Pople finished with 13 points and 9 assists and Nick Taylor finished with a double double (10 points, 10 assists.)


In the other games, Perth took third place 71-54 against Kilsyth who were relegated to the bronze medal match after losing in overtime to Queensland on Friday night thanks to a three pointer on the buzzer.


In the women’s league, the Sydney University Flames, featuring Roller Hawk Hannah Dodds won gold in an upset against the Perth Wheelcats 55-50 while the Sydney Metro Blue Hornets defeated Kilsyth in the bronze medal playoff 73-56.